When you are a senior leader – someone who has both people working with you and reporting to you in a medium to large organization, it’s unlikely that you will have close personal relationships with everyone. This dynamically changes what you need to be able to do.

In smaller organizations your primary role would likely be to produce specific results that drive the organization forward. In a larger organization your role is to help others drive to their success. Two entirely different sets of skills that if not understood can lead the senior leader to fail. With this in mind, there are three things that you will absolutely need to be successful.


Grit. Once the vision and strategy has been developed, it needs to be deployed both internally and externally and that requires the senior leader to carry the vision, without wavering or doubt even when difficult times occur. Not all great ideas take root immediately. They often require a time of planting and watering coupled with patience to see it grow. A senior leader who changes direction too often and too easily because of something they are told or read just as often fails to achieve the goal.

Agility. In this ever-changing marketplace new dynamics are constantly being introduced. This puts added pressure on you because it’s tempting to react to each seemingly important market development. To temper this impulse requires that you both anticipate change and respond to it in a proactive manner. Agility provides you with the context to determine what the next best thing is to do, and often doing nothing is just that. To help you understand this, consider how many truly innovative ideas become the next “Big Thing” versus yesterday’s failures?

Smarts. Over many years of consulting I have found that what is often lacking in organizations is a true definition of what constitutes each person’s performance success. What is required is a cohesive understanding of each person’s true abilities to create specific outcomes that betters each person’s chances of success. So many organizations assign their people with tasks they do not have the skills to perform, and predictably they fail. A smart senior leader evaluates goals against the organization’s and the individuals’ true abilities and builds a strategy that can be effectively executed within present resources.

Coupling grit, agility and smarts requires both balance and drive. For most, it is a learned set of skills that highly successful senior leaders possess. It also requires you to step back once in a while and ask, “Am I getting in the way of my organization by doing too much and not leading enough?” If your conversation with yourself leads you to answer in the affirmative, it might be time to pass the responsibilities and tasks back to your team and allow them to find their own solutions.